Thursday 17 January 2019, 19:05

Oman make history as group stage ends

Oman fans celebrate at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup
  • Japan finish top of Group F, Uzbekistan runners-up

  • Oman book place in Round of 16 for first time

  • Qatar’s Ali pulls ahead in Golden Boot race after Saudi Arabia win

Japan came from behind to edge Uzbekistan and finish top of Group F at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Thursday, while Oman beat Turkmenistan with two late goals to seal their place in the knockout stage for the first time in their history.

In Group E, Qatar made it three wins from three after a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia thanks to a brace from the in-form Almoez Ali. Lebanon cruised past Korea DPR in the group’s other match but both sides were eliminated, with the victorious Cedars missing out by the narrowest of margins. rounds up all of the action on the final day of the group stage.

Oman 3-1 Turkmenistan, Group F Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Pim Verbeek's Oman started brightly when Raed Saleh capitalised on a stray Turkmenistan pass and won a free-kick on top of his opponents’ penalty area. Captain Ahmed Al Mahaijri followed that up with a well-struck shot hit over the wall and past a helpless Mamed Orazmuhamedov. Turkmenistan found an equaliser shortly before half-time as Altymyrat Annadurdyyev pounced on a fortuitous deflected pass and poked a goal in at the near post.

Drama followed as Oman scored two late goals that ultimately booked their place in the knockout stage for the first time at the Asian Cup. Al Mahaijri turned provider when he cut back a pass for Muhsen Al Ghassani, who scored from close range. Mohammed Al-Musallami then made sure Oman’s tournament would continue thanks to his stoppage-time header.

Japan 2-1 Uzbekistan, Group F Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain

Japan peppered experienced Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov’s goal constantly throughout the first half, but it was the Central Asian side that took the lead against the run of play thanks to a superb solo goal from Eldor Shomurodov. Uzbekistan’s lead last only a few moments, however, as Japan struck back through a fine header from Newcastle United striker Yoshinori Muto, who guided in Sei Muroya’s pinpoint cross.

After the break, Tsukasa Shiotani, playing in the city of his club side Al Ain, provided the moment of the match with a stunning, long-range strike that proved to be the winning goal.

Saudi Arabia 0-2 Qatar, Group E Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia came so close to opening the scoring against Qatar with only the woodwork denying Fahad Al Muwallad, as the two teams chased top spot in the group. Qatar were awarded a penalty before half-time after Ali was brought down in the area, but Saudi keeper Mohammed Al Owais saved Hasan Al Haydos’ spot-kick with his feet. However, Al Owais could do nothing about Ali’s finish just a few minutes later as the 22-year-old curled a shot around him following a defensive mix-up.

Ali doubled his tally on the evening ten minutes from fulltime with a header from Abdelaziz Hatim’s corner to help seal Qatar’s place at the Group E summit. Ali’s brace takes him to an impressive tally of seven goals at UAE 2019, just one away from equalling Ali Daei’s record of eight goals scored in 1996.

Lebanon 4-1 Korea DPR, Group E Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah

Pak Kwang-Ryong scored Korea DPR’s first goal of the tournament with a free-kick that Lebanon keeper Mehdi Khalil won’t want to watch back, as Pak’s low shot slipped beneath him. But Khalil's team-mates partly spared his blushes by proceeding to score four unanswered goals.

George Felix Melki finished off a brilliant move by Hassan Maatouk to equalise. In the second half, Alhelwe put Lebanon in front with an excellent volley. Maatouk then found a goal himself with a penalty-kick that sent Ri Myong-guk the wrong way. Alhelwe then added a fourth in stoppage time with a well-struck finish, however it wasn’t enough to see the Lebanese through to the next round. Lebanon were ranked fifth behind Vietnam among the third-placed teams thanks only to an inferior disciplinary record.

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